All posts by Wintery Knight

https://winteryknight.com/

Colombia hosts international banking conference and signs free trade deals

This story has two parts. First of all, take a look at this IBD article that explains how the USA was able to transition Colombia’s economy away from drug-trafficking with a plan called “Plan Colombia”. The Democrats deserve all the credit for this plan, because it was initiated by Clinton and supported by Joe Biden. It has been a huge foreign policy victory for the USA.

Let’s take a look:

…Colombia is no longer the narco-trafficking hellhole it once was, but a bright Latin American success story.

Plan Colombia not only went after traffickers, but also root causes of conflict, professionalizing the military and offering the population alternatives to trafficking.

IBD is hoping that the lessons we learned in Colombia can be applied in other places like Mexico and and Afghanistan, where similar drug-related problems abound. But wait! All is not well. For Obama has decided to undermine Plan Colombia by reneging on the last step of the plan. Obama is refusing to sign a free trade deal with Colombia!

But we don’t see how the reality of victory can truly be achieved so long as Congressional Democrats undermine the final step in Plan Colombia’s victory plan, which is free trade with the U.S.

It’s the last step in the process of offering an alternative development path, over drugs and terror. Protectionist Democrats in Congress, in hock to Big Labor cash, still refuse to allow even a vote.

That’s right. After all this work on Plan Colombia, we are about to throw away all the fruits of our labor by refusing to allowing American companies to sell to Colombia, and allowing American taxpayers to buy cheaper, higher quality Colombian goods. Free trade is good for us, good for them, and good for world peace. But I guess it’s not good for Obama’s special interest groups.

And this has implications for Afghanistan, a country desperately trying to break away from an economy based on drug-trafficking:

Worse, it has potential to undercut victory in Afghanistan. Afghanis can see how hard Colombians worked with Americans to make Plan Colombia succeed. They can see how the program addressed not only military tasks, but social ones, which end in free and legal trade with the vast U.S. market.

…For Colombia, the promise was the free trade that Democrats are now reneging on. Democrats are snatching defeat from the jaws of a victory they could claim as their own and extend to Afghanistan. All they have to do is keep their promises.

But Colombia isn’t about to take this garbage from the President-Teleprompter. They’re going to fight back! Check out this IBD article that explains what Colombia is trying to do to avoid rolling back all the progress they’ve made against the drug traffickers. They’ve hosted an international conference of bankers to try to diversify their economy.

Excerpt:

Colombia asserted itself on the international stage last week, with the 50th annual governors’ meeting of the Inter-American Development Bank in Medellin. Some 6,000 bankers and businesspeople came.

…Corporate titans from Brazil, Spain, Japan, China and Germany were present along with the bankers, having invested $8.5 billion in Colombia in 2008.

But wait! One country barely even showed up! Which one? It’s the country that angers the world by opposing free trade. The country that was warned about its ignorant and destructive economic policies by former communist basket-cases like China and Russia. Who is it?

Let’s see:

A few U.S. executives were present too, but the Americans seemed overshadowed by the others.

It isn’t surprising, because Colombia is rapidly moving to diversify its trading partners, signing deals with China, Japan, Korea, the European Union, Canada and Central America, following Chile’s model of signing free-trade deals with all comers.

The U.S., with its Colombia free-trade agreement still on ice in Congress, was the only country that looked isolated and out of tune with the world without its pact.

But the IBD article does end on a hopeful note: there are signs that the free trade deal may be back on the table. We can only hope.

Further study

This previous post I wrote links to an article by economist Robert P. Murphy, published by the Institute for Energy Research. The article warns about the dangers of carbon tariffs and the benefits of free trade. I highly recommend it to those who do not understand whyy free trade matters for our economic growth and prosperity. And that includes jobs.

Millions Will Lose Health Care from their Employer Under the Democrats’ Plan

House Republican Leader John Boehner
House Republican Leader John Boehner

I spotted this scary post over at John Boehner’s blog. The post, written by Kevin Lewis, links to this AP article that highlights a new study from the Lewin Group. I blogged before about the Democrats’ plan to equalize life outcomes and redistribute wealth by nationalizing health care. Now we get more details of how they’ll do it.

Here is a summary of the Democrats’ plan:

President Barack Obama and many Democrats want to create a government insurance plan to compete with private plans that now cover about 170 million Americans. The issue is major sticking point for Republicans and the insurance industry.

And the predicted results of that plan:

The Lewin study found that if such a plan were open to all employers and individuals, and if it paid doctors and hospitals the same as Medicare, the government plan would quickly grow to 131 million members, while enrollment in private insurance plans would plummet.

“The private insurance industry might just fizzle out altogether,” said John Sheils, a Lewin vice president and leading author of the study.

By paying Medicare rates the government plan would be able to set premiums well below what private plans charge. Monthly premiums for family coverage would be $761 in the government plan, compared with an average of $970 in private plans, the study estimated. Employers and individuals would flock to the public plan to cut costs.

Lewis cites two of the study‘s key findings:

“If as the President proposed, eligibility is limited to only small employers, individuals and the self-employed … The number of people with private coverage would fall by 32.0 million people.”

“If the public plan is opened to all employers as proposed by former Senators Clinton and Edwards, at Medicare payment levels … The number of people with private health insurance would decline by 119.1 million people. This would be a two-thirds reduction in the number of people with private coverage (currently 170 million people).”

More here at the Heritage Foundation.

Further study

Here are some previous links that are relevant:

Why taxing the rich to grow government fails

UPDATE: Welcome visitors from 4Simpsons! Thanks for the link!

I spotted this article from Chris Edwards of the Cato Institute. (H/T Club for Growth)

In the article Edwards explains why taxing the rich is bad for economic growth. The article is a response to a leftist polemic in The Economist.

The first thing to note is that tax increases decrease the growth of the efficient, market-oriented private sector:

President Obama wants to go in the other direction, raising the top two income tax rates, which would reduce production and increase avoidance by highly skilled people. Such economic damage from higher taxes is called deadweight loss. In the 2006 paper, Mr Feldstein argued that deadweight losses from a federal income tax rate increase would be $1.76 for every dollar of tax increase. That means that every new $1 billion spending programme in President Obama’s budget will destroy about $1.76 billion of activities in the private sector.

Yes, this is why we are losing jobs today, because Obama is transferring wealth from private companies, who answer to customers and shareholders, to public bureaucracies, who are insulated from market competition.

He continues by explaining that the rich already pay most of the taxes:

…43% of American households do not pay any federal income tax, according to data from the Joint Committee on Taxation. That large group is doing little to support the huge burden of the welfare state, so it is laughable that they might be angry at the wealthy who do bear the burden. The CBO data show that the top one-fifth of households pay 69% of the entire costs of the federal government. Frankly, the rest of Americans are free-riders on the top quintile’s enormous financial support of government.

And he explains why the public sector is less efficient than the private sector:

There are fundamental reasons why big governments do not work very well. As taxes rise, resources are shifted from more efficient private activities to less efficient government activities. The private sector is not more efficient than government because it does not make mistakes, but because it has mechanisms to purge mistakes and move resources to higher-valued uses. Government policymakers do the opposite: they retain failed programmes year after year, and resources get stuck in low-value uses.

Even if politicians did focus on moving resources to higher-value uses, they would be unable to because government activities do not generate the price and profit signals needed to allocate capital and labour efficiently. A final problem is that government programmes are often horribly managed.

For an example of why governments don’t manage money efficiently, consider this USA Today story. (H/T Representative Mike Pence)

Excerpt:

The federal government will soon send more than $300 million in stimulus funds to 61 housing agencies that have been repeatedly faulted by auditors for mishandling government aid, a USA TODAY review has found.

The money is part of a $4 billion effort to create jobs by fixing public housing projects that have fallen into disrepair. Recipients include housing authorities in 26 states that auditors have cited for problems ranging from poor bookkeeping to money that was spent improperly, according to the review of summaries the agencies must file with the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

Where did that money come from? It comes from the private sector. It comes from you.

How to defend the fine-tuning argument just like William Lane Craig

UPDATE: Welcome visitors from Colliding Universes! Thanks for the link Denyse!

This post is the second in a two part series. In case you missed it, here is Craig’s first argument on the kalam argument.

First of all, if you’re not clear on the fine-tuning argument, click here and read Walter Bradley’s exposition of it. Dr. Walter L. Bradley (C.V. here) is the Distinguished Professor of Engineering at Baylor University. He was also a professor and department head at Texas A&M before going to Baylor. He had his Ph.D at age 24 from the University of Texas and was a tenured professor at 27.

The first argument presented by Bradley in that post is the same argument that Craig used against Hitchens in their debate. (It’s Craig’s second argument in the set of five). Bradley’s version of the argument has been presented live, in-person by Bradley at dozens of universities here and abroad, in front of students and faculty. The lecture I linked to in that post is an MP3.

The fine-tuning argument

The argument goes like this:

  1. The fine-tuning of the universe to support life is either due to law, chance or design
  2. It is not due to law or chance
  3. Therefore, the fine-tuning is due to design

What does it meaning to be fine-tuned for life?

Here are the facts on the fine-tuning:

  • Life has certain minimal requirements; long-term stable source of energy, a large number of different chemical elements, an element that can serve as a hub for joining together other elements into compounds, etc.
  • In order to meet these minimal requirements, the physical constants, (such as the gravitational constant), and the ratios between physical constants, need to be withing a narrow range of values in order to support the minimal requirements for life of any kind.
  • Slight changes to any of the physical constants, or to the rations between the constants, will result in a universe inhospitable to life.
  • The range of possible ranges over 70 orders of magnitude.
  • The constants are selected by whoever creates the universe. They are not determined by physical laws. And the extreme probabilities involved required put the fine-tuning beyond the reach of chance.
  • Although each individual selection of constants and ratios is as unlikely as any other selection, the vast majority of these possibilities do not support the minimal requirements of life of any kind. (In the same way as any hand of 5 cards that is dealt is as likely as any other, but you are overwhelmingly likely NOT to get a royal flush. In our case, a royal flush is a life-permitting universe).

Examples of finely-tuned constants

Here are a couple of examples of the fine-tuning. Craig only gave one example in the debate and didn’t explain how changes to the constant would affect the minimal requirements for life. But Bradley does explain it, and he is a professional research scientist, so he is speaking about things he worked in his polymer research lab. (He was the director)

a) The strong force: (the force that binds nucleons (= protons and neutrons) together in nucleus, by means of meson exchange)

  • if the strong force constant were 2% stronger, there would be no stable hydrogen, no long-lived stars, no hydrogen containing compounds. This is because the single proton in hydrogen would want to stick to something else so badly that there would be no hydrogen left!
  • if the strong force constant were 5% weaker, there would be no stable stars, few (if any) elements besides hydrogen. This is because you would be able to build up the nuclei of the heavier elements, which contain more than 1 proton.
  • So, whether you adjust the strong force up or down, you lose stars than can serve as long-term sources of stable energy, or you lose chemical diversity, which is necessary to make beings that can perform the minimal requirements of living beings. (see below)

b) The conversion of beryllium to carbon, and carbon to oxygen

  • Life requires carbon in order to serve as the hub for complex molecules, but it also requires oxygen in order to create water.
  • Carbon is like the hub wheel in a tinker toy set: you can bind other elements together to more complicated molecules (e.g. – “carbon-based life), but the bonds are not so tight that they can’t be broken down again later to make something else.
  • The carbon resonance level is determined by two constants: the strong force and electromagnetic force.
  • If you mess with these forces even slightly, you either lose the carbon or the oxygen.

Either way, you’ve got no life of any conceivable kind.

Is the fine-tuning real?

Yes, it’s real and it is conceded by the top-rank of atheist physicists. Let me give you a citation from the best one of all, Martin Rees. Martin Rees is an atheist and a qualified astronomer. He wrote a book called “Just Six Numbers: The Deep Forces That Shape The Universe”, (Basic Books: 2001). In it, he discusses 6 numbers that need to be fine-tuned in order to have a life-permitting universe.

Rees writes here:

These six numbers constitute a ‘recipe’ for a universe. Moreover, the outcome is sensitive to their values: if any one of them were to be ‘untuned’, there would be no stars and no life. Is this tuning just a brute fact, a coincidence? Or is it the providence of a benign Creator?

There are some atheists who deny the fine-tuning, but these atheists are in firm opposition to the progress of science. The more science has progressed, the more constants, ratios and quantities we have discovered that need to be fine-tuned. Science is going in a theistic direction. Next, let’s see how atheists try to account for the fine-tuning, on atheism.

Atheistic responses to the fine-tuning argument

There are two common responses among atheists to this argument.

The first is to speculate that there are actually an infinite number of other universes that are not fine-tuned, (i.e. – the gambler’s fallacy). All these other universes don’t support life. We just happen to be in the one universe is fine-tuned for life. The problem is that there is no way of directly observing these other universes and no independent evidence that they exist.

Here is an excerpt from an article in Discover magazine, (which is hostile to theism and Christianity).

Short of invoking a benevolent creator, many physicists see only one possible explanation: Our universe may be but one of perhaps infinitely many universes in an inconceivably vast multiverse. Most of those universes are barren, but some, like ours, have conditions suitable for life.

The idea is controversial. Critics say it doesn’t even qualify as a scientific theory because the existence of other universes cannot be proved or disproved. Advocates argue that, like it or not, the multiverse may well be the only viable non­religious explanation for what is often called the “fine-tuning problem”—the baffling observation that the laws of the universe seem custom-tailored to favor the emergence of life.

The second response by atheists is that the human observers that exist today, 14 billion years after the universe was created out of nothing, actually caused the fine-tuning. This solution would mean that although humans did not exist at the time the of the big bang, they are going to be able to reach back in time at some point in the future and manually fine-tune the universe.

Here is an excerpt from and article in the New Scientist, (which is hostile to theism and Christianity).

…maybe we should approach cosmic fine-tuning not as a problem but as a clue. Perhaps it is evidence that we somehow endow the universe with certain features by the mere act of observation… observers are creating the universe and its entire history right now. If we in some sense create the universe, it is not surprising that the universe is well suited to us.

So, there are two choices for atheists. Either an infinite number of unobservable universes that are not fine-tuned, or humans go back in time at some future point and fine-tune the beginning of the universe, billions of years in the past.

Why the fine-tuning argument matters

We need to make a decision today about how we are going to live. The evidence available today supports the fine-tuning of the universe by a supernatural mind with immense power. The progress of science has strengthened this theory against determined opposition from rival naturalistic theories.

Those are the facts, and we must all choose what to do with them.

Further study

Here is a paper by Walter L. Bradley that contains many more examples of the fine-tuning, and explanations for what happens when you change the constants, quantities and rations even slightly.

How to defend the kalam cosmological argument just like William Lane Craig

UPDATE: Welcome readers from The Way the Ball Bounces! Thanks for the link!

UPDATE: Welcome visitors from Colliding Universes! Thanks for the link Denyse!

This post is the first in a two part series. In case you missed it, here is Craig’s second argument about fine-tuning.

I’ve been watching Bill Craig debates for a long time now, ever since I did my first degree in computer science a dozen years ago. Today I thought we could all learn how to argue Craig’s first argument for God, which he used in his debate with Christopher Hitchens.

Let’s go over Craig’s kalam argument in brief.

The kalam cosmological argument

The argument goes like this:

  1. Whatever begins to exist requires a cause
  2. The universe began to exist
  3. Therefore, the universe requires a cause (M.P. 1,2)

The most important thing for you to realize is that nothing can be sustained in a debate unless it can be phrased as a valid argument according the rules of inference. All of Craig’s arguments can be broken down into logical propositions that use the standard laws of logical reasoning in order to force their conclusions deductively, so long as the premises are true.

Understanding the logical form of the kalam argument

The form of the kalam argument is valid because it allows for a modus ponens inference. (Here’s a primer on logical reasoning)

  • if p is true, then q is true
  • p is true
  • therefore, q is true

That means that so long as premise 1 and 2 are true, the conclusion follows necessarily. This is the same form of argument (deductive) used by Sherlock Holmes in his cases.

Proving the premises

Can the atheist deny that either or both of these premises are true?

  1. “Whatever begins to exist requires a cause”
    If the atheist denies this premise, then they are denying a fundamental law of natural science, namely, that matter can neither be created or destroyed. That is natural law.
  2. “The universe began to exist”
    The universe came into being. If the atheist denies this they are denying the state of the art in modern cosmology.

First, quantum mechanics is not going to save the atheist here. In QM, virtual particles come into being in a vacuum. The vacuum is sparked by a scientist. The particles exist for a period of time inversely proportional to their mass. But in the case of the big bang, there is no vacuum – there’s nothing. There is no scientist – there’s nothing. And the universe is far too massive to last 14 billion years as a virtual particle.

Secondly, atheists will say that the big bang is speculative physics that could change at any moment. But the trend is in favor of an absolute beginning out of nothing. We have had a string of solid, recent scientific discoveries that point in a definite direction, as follows:

  • Einstein’s theory of general relativity, and the scientific confirmation of its accuracy
  • the cosmic microwave background radiation
  • red-shifting of light from galaxies moving away from us
  • radioactive element abundance predictions
  • helium/hydrogen abundance predictions
  • star formation and stellar lifecycle theories
  • the second law of thermodynamics applied to nuclear fusion inside stars

So, insofar as atheists question these discoveries and the origin of the entire physical universe out of nothing, they are opposing the progress of science.

What came into being at the moment of creation?

You need to understand that the big bang theory states that space, time and matter were all created at the moment of creation.

  1. There was no space causally prior to the universe beginning to exist
  2. There was no time causally prior to the universe beginning to exist
  3. There was no matter causally prior to the universe beginning to exist

All of these things began to exist at the first moment.

What can we infer about the cause?

So, space, time, and matter began to exist. What could have caused them to begin to exist?

  1. Whatever causes the universe to appear is not inside of space, because there was no space causally prior to the creation event. The cause must therefore be non-physical, because physical things exist in space.
  2. Whatever causes the universe to appear is not bound by time (temporal). It never began to exist. There was no passage of time causally prior to the big bang, so the cause of the universe did not come into being. The cause existed eternally.
  3. And the cause is not material. All the matter in the universe came into being at the first moment. Whatever caused the universe to begin to exist cannot have been matter, because there was no matter causally prior to the big bang.

So what could the cause be? Craig notes that we are only familiar with two kinds of non-material realities:

  1. Abstract objects, like numbers, sets and mathematical relations
  2. Minds, like your own mind

Now, abstract objects don’t cause of any effects in nature. But we are very familiar with the causal capabilities of our own minds – just raise your own arm and see! So, by process of elimination, we are left with a mind as the cause of the universe. As Sherlock Holmes says, “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.

This cause created the entire physical universe. The cause of this event is therefore supernatural, because it brings nature into being and is not inside of nature itself. The cause of the universe violates the law of conservation of matter is therefore performing a miracle.

Responding to alternative naturalistic cosmologies

In this published research paper from the journal Astrophysics and Space Science, William Lane Craig responds to the several naturalistic attempts to evade the implications of the kalam argument. I will list each one by name and explain the main problem with each. I highly recommend you read the paper and become conversant with the arguments and evidences.

  1. The steady-state model: disproved by recent empirical observations of radio galaxy distributions, as well as red-shifting of light from distant galaxies moving away from us at increasing speeds
  2. The oscillating model: disproved in 1998 by more empirical measurements of mass density which showed that the universe would expand forever, and never collapse (was named Discovery of the Year)
  3. The vacuum fluctuation model: the theory allows for universes to spawn at every point in space and coalesce into one extremely old universe, which contradictions observations of our much younger universe
  4. The chaotic inflationary model: does not avoid the need for an absolute beginning in the finite past
  5. The quantum gravity model: makes use of imaginary time which cannot be mapped into a physical reality, it’s purely theoretical

Why the kalam cosmological argument matters

We need to make a decision today about how we are going to live. The evidence available today supports the creation of the entire physical universe from nothing, caused by a supernatural mind with immense power. The progress of science has strengthened this theory against determined opposition from rival naturalistic theories.

Those are the facts, and we must all choose what to do with them.

Further study

A good on this topic is the debate between William Lane Craig and atheist physicist Victor Stenger, (audio here). Also, a lecture titled “Beyond the Big Bang”, was delivered at the University of Colorado at Boulder, in front of Victor Stenger and other physicists (audio here). There is a period of Q&A in which Bill must face challengers. These are both available on DVD. More Bill Craig debates are here.